Sharp kitchen knives make cooking much easier. So which sharpener should you use?
Published Sept. 15, 2020. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 21: A Trip to Vietnam
The first time you slice into food with a truly sharp knife, it’s eye-opening; you feel like your skills just leveled up. Our favorite tool for keeping our kitchen knives sharp has long been an electric knife sharpener because a good one can bring the dullest, most damaged blade back to life and then keep it in prime shape with quick touch-ups. You don’t need special skills or a lot of time if you have the right electric sharpener, which means that you can take care of your knife in minutes and get back to the real goal: making something good to eat.
Our previous favorite, the Chef’sChoice Trizor 15XV Knife Sharpener, has some new competition, so we bought a fresh copy of our winner and six rivals, all priced from about $37 to about $160. We set out to find machines designed to sharpen blades to 15-degree angles because our favorite chef’s knife, the Victorinox Swiss Army Fibrox Pro 8" Chef’s Knife, is sharpened to a 15-degree angle on each side of its blade. However, Presto, the manufacturer of two popular sharpeners included in our lineup, did not reveal this information, saying only that its machines produce the “optimum” angle. A sharpener from another manufacturer sharpens blades to 17 degrees, but the manufacturer sells separate accessories to sharpen blades to 15- or 20-degree angles. In this case, given that it was only a 2-degree difference, we decided we would not test its 15-degree accessory unless this sharpener beat the rest of the lineup.
We put all the sharpeners through their paces, using each machine to sharpen the blades of brand-new copies of our favorite chef's knife that we’d dulled by dragging them over a whetstone, repeating the dulling-and-resharpening test a total of four times. We assigned one copy of the knife to each machine throughout testing. To evaluate the results after each sharpening, we sliced through sheets of copy paper, our standard sharpness test; used an industrial sharpness-testing machine that assigned a numerical score to the sharpness; and finally circled back to the real world by slicing ripe, juicy tomatoes.
To see if the machines could handle chef’s knives made with different designs, metal composition, and blade hardness, we also dulled and sharpened a single copy of a Japanese carbon-steel knife that we recommend, the Misono Swedish Carbon Steel Gyutou, 8.2". And to see whether the sharpeners could repair damage, we used a tool to drill small notches in all the Victorinox blades to simulate chips you can get on your knife when cutting very hard or frozen food. Throughout testing, we evaluated how easy the sharpeners were to operate, as well as how much time ...
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Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.